McCain Looks Ahead and Sees Red

GOP candidate envisions a 50-state campaign, including competing in California.

ByABC News
March 4, 2008, 6:45 AM

SAN ANTONIO, March 4, 2008 — -- Looking ahead to the general election campaign, Sen. John McCain of Arizona vowed Monday to mount a serious and determined effort to win California, the nation's largest state that has been a safely "blue," or Democratic state, in presidential elections for the last 20 years.

"I just want to compete in California and I understand the drawbacks, the cost of media, all of those aspects of it," McCain said aboard his Straight Talk Express bus after a town hall-style event in Waco, Texas. "I think as a Western senator, I understand their issues. I think environmental issues are very important in California. I think I can appeal to the Hispanic voter. I think I can appeal to the Asian voter. I think I can appeal to the independent voter, which is a larger and larger percent of registered voters. I don't think as a candidate that I want to say we're not going to compete in the largest state in America, which is right next door to my home state of Arizona."

California has 55 electoral votes, far more than any other state. It has not gone Republican in a presidential election since George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in the Golden State in 1988.

California has two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, but a Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was re-elected in 2006. Schwarzenegger has endorsed McCain.

McCain outlined his intention to run hard in California while discussing his plan to expand his electoral state strategy beyond that of George W. Bush's when he won in 2000 and 2004.

"One thing I really will insist on is to campaign everywhere," he said. "As you know, sometimes you go to those states that you, quote, have to win. I think we've got to go to as many states as possible and as many areas as possible in the country, including competing in California. I think there are states that we can put in play that were not in play before."

In addition to California, Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to McCain who worked on Schwarzenegger's 2006 campaign, cited Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine as states that went Democratic in 2004, but may be ripe for McCain to take in 2008.